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Denize Rose AMOR (SID: 17010809)

TOPIC: OPTION 1

Over the past two decades, numerous policies and key national report documents such as the
Report of the Review of Aboriginal Education 2004, NSW Department of Education’s Aboriginal
Education Policy 2008 and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy 2015 have
highlighted the need for teachers to build positive and respectful relationships with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander students to support their learning, success and retention. There are a number of
strategies to support these objectives, such as working with local Indigenous communities through
reciprocity and respect, and using the 8ways framework to create an interconnected learning
experience for students. In the context of the curriculum area English, Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander students can be supported by embedding teaching strategies within lessons which address
their specific learning needs.

The cumulative effects of factors such as absenteeism and suspensions, low English literacy
and numeracy skills, and culturally exclusive curriculum has been found to have continued adverse
effects on the school engagement and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
(Beresford et al., 2012; Burridge et al., 2012). In 2004, a review in New South Wales found that despite
historical efforts to close the gap, education systems and policies were still unable to deliver the same
level of academic achievement and success for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students as they
did for their non-Indigenous counterparts (NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group
Incorporated & NSW Department of Education and Training, 2004). The report concluded that all
levels of the education system required inspired leadership and support to break the barriers to
success that too many Indigenous students were facing in an educational context, with a list of
recommended actions which included fortifying the identities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
students, developing Indigenous cultural knowledge, extending quality teaching and learning to better
engage and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and building community links and
collaborating in partnership to reinforce the significance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island histories,
cultures and experiences (NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Incorporated & NSW
Department of Education and Training, 2004).
In response to the Report of the Review of Aboriginal Education 2004, the NSW Department
of Education’s Aboriginal Education Policy was developed and implemented. The policy explicitly
states that “the NSW Department of Education is committed to the educational outcomes and
wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students” and that they have set a goal that
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students will match or better the outcomes of the broader
student population” and to “increase the participation and retention of Aboriginal students in schools”

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Denize Rose AMOR (SID: 17010809)

(Department of Education and Training, 2017; NSW Department of Education, 2018). These
commitments underline the importance of building positive and relationships with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander students to support their success and retention.
To reinforce these commitments, the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) have
implemented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures content in all K-12 syllabuses
through a series of key principles and protocols. These principles include demonstrating respect for
the knowledge and cultural expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, ongoing
consultation with knowledge holders and keepers, custodians and stakeholders, a commitment to
long-term partnerships with the wider Indigenous communities (NESA, 2017). Protocols may differ
between communities but share commonalities such as including and respecting Elders in decision-
making processes, demonstrating a collective custodianship of traditional owners of the land, and
observing cultural responsibilities and obligations (NSW Education Standards Authority, 2017).
Therefore, while the principles focus on respectful behaviours, the protocols focus on building positive
and respectful relationships with both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their wider
communities.
Furthermore, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy was
released in 2015 by the Education Council. The strategy aims to assist all Indigenous young people
achieve their full learning potential, shape their futures and embrace their cultures by clearly
stipulating nation-wide actions focused on school attendance and engagement, transition points (such
as pathways into post-school options) and the Australian curriculum (Department of Education and
Training, 2017). The strategy is underpinned by principles including having high expectations for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, demonstrating respect for indigenous histories, values,
languages and cultures, and working collaboratively with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island
communities.

Common themes across policies and key national report documents focus on building positive
and respectful relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to support their
learning, success and retention. Essential components of achieving these goals include embodying the
Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, employing strategies such as the 8ways framework,
and demonstrating reciprocity and mutual benefit, cultural competency and integrating Indigenous
knowledge within the curriculum.
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) have created The
Australian Professional Standards for Teachers which aims to empower teachers and school leaders
by making explicit the elements of high-quality and effective teaching which will improve educational

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Denize Rose AMOR (SID: 17010809)

outcomes for students. These elements include “Knowing Students and How They Learn” and “Plan
For and Implement Effective Teaching and Learning” (AITSL, 2011). In the context of supporting
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, these elements have significant impacts on the way that
lessons are designed because their optimal learning experiences are characterised in two different
ways. Aboriginal students in general like it when learning intentions are made clear, and when model
answers and demonstrations are repeated so that they have plenty of opportunity for mastery,
whereas Torres Strait Islander students generally prefer to employ trial and error. It is also important
to note that in general, these students think the student-centred approach is lazy as the teacher is not
actively involved in directing their learning (Harrison & Sellwoord, 2016).
Employing strategies such as the 8ways framework can further build positive and respectful
relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The 8ways framework is an
interconnected pedagogical approach with a central philosophy that Aboriginal perspectives are found
in processes rather than content. As such, the framework focuses on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’
and aims to embed Aboriginal perspectives within lessons while simultaneously ensuring that the
focus remains on core curriculum content (Regional Aboriginal Education Team, 2012). The eight
elements of the framework are narrative-driven learning, visualised learning processes, hands-on and
reflective techniques, use of symbols and metaphors, land-based learning, indirect logic, modelled or
scaffolded mastery, and connectedness to community. None of these eight elements can exist in
isolation as they are dynamic and interrelated, which places significance on the Indigenous way of
holistic thinking and relational cognition where everything is interconnected.
Demonstrating reciprocity and mutual benefit, cultural competency and integrating
Indigenous knowledge within the curriculum can support learning and retention of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander students. Reciprocity and mutual benefit is a key factor of working with
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities which can have significant concurrent impacts on
both students and the local community. Through reciprocity, teachers and school staff can engage
local community members and leaders which ensures that cultural knowledge and experiences are
valued as ‘living knowledge’ and not dismissed as something that belongs in the past (Harrison &
Sellwoord, 2016). Acts of reciprocity and mutual benefit can build positive and respectful relationships
with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students by providing opportunities to allow students to
place themselves within the wider Aboriginal context of Australian history and reinforcing the
significance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island histories, cultures and experiences.

As a future secondary teacher, I have a professional responsibility to adhere to policies and


key national report documents such as the NSW Department of Education’s Aboriginal Education

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Denize Rose AMOR (SID: 17010809)

Policy 2008 which explicitly stipulates my duty to increase the participation and retention of Aboriginal
students, and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy 2015 which details
the Australian national commitment to assist all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to
achieve their full learning potential. In the specific context of my curriculum area (English), I have a
duty to develop a deep knowledge of the syllabus to maximise opportunities to embed links to
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island culture and histories in each lesson, personify the AITSL Australian
Professional Standards for Teachers and dimensions by understanding the way students learn, and
employ strategies such as the 8ways framework to support the learning, success and retention of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
The NSW Education Standards Authority have created the syllabuses which include cross-
curriculum learning priorities and capabilities. The cross-curriculum priorities enable students to
develop an understanding about contemporary issues such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
histories and cultures which encompasses concepts of country and place, people, culture and identity
(NSW Education Standards Authority, n.d.). As a future secondary teacher of English, I must gain a
strong understanding of the syllabus which will not only inform the selection of content and the design
of relevant activities within the classroom setting, but will also assist in identifying opportunities to
embed cross-curriculum priorities into the content. In English, these opportunities can include
selecting texts which give them insights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island histories, cultures and
experiences. This has two effects as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students will have an
opportunity to reinforce their cultural identifies, and their non-Indigenous counterparts will have the
opportunity to explore their histories and experiences.
While allowing students to explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island histories, culture and
experiences reinforces the importance of exploring country and place, people, culture and identity,
using the 8ways framework will allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to engage with
the class activities and set texts in ways that support optimal learning opportunities. Using the 8ways
framework to develop activities which draw on aspects such as community links, includes symbols and
images, and gives opportunities for both non-verbal and story-sharing activities, places significance on
the Indigenous way of interrelated thinking which will allow students to engage with the learning
content and share ideas.
Another key element of building positive and respectful relationships with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander students and support retention is understanding how they prefer to learn and
implementing strategies which support them. For example, Harrison & Sellwood (2016) reported that
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students generally dislike the student-centred approach because
the teacher is not actively involved in directing their learning. Therefore, I must make considerations

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Denize Rose AMOR (SID: 17010809)

in my classroom practice to ensure that I am giving Aboriginal students plenty of opportunities to


master the content through models and demonstrations and allowing trial and error opportunities for
Torres Strait Islander students.

The Report of the Review of Aboriginal Education 2004 found that despite historical efforts to
close the gap, education systems and policies were still unable to deliver the same level of academic
achievement and success for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students as they did for their non-
Indigenous counterparts. Since then, key national report documents and policies have underpinned
the importance of building positive and respectful relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander students to support their learning success and retention.

RESOURCES:

Beresford, Q., Partington, G., & Gower, G. (2012). Reform and Resistance in Aboriginal Education.
Crawley, Australia: UWA Publishing.
Burridge, N., Whalan, F., & Vaughan, K. (2012). Indigenous Education: A Learning Journey for
Teachers, Schools and Communities. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishes.
Council of Australian Governments Education Council. (2015). National Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Education Strategy 2015. Retrieved from
http://www.scseec.edu.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/ATSI%20documents/DECD__
NATSI_EducationStrategy.pdf
Department of Education and Training. (2017). National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Education Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.education.gov.au/national-aboriginal-and-
torres-strait-islander-education-strategy
Harrison, N., & Sellwood, J. (2016). Learning and Teaching in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Students. South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Incorporated & NSW Department of Education and
Training. (2004). The report of the review of Aboriginal education. Darlinghurst, Australia: NSW
Department of Education.
NSW Department of Education. (2018). Aboriginal Education Policy. Retrieved from
https://education.nsw.gov.au/policy-library/policies/aboriginal-education-and-training-policy
NSW Education Standards Authority. (2017). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Principles and
Protocols. Retrieved from https://ab-ed.nesa.nsw.edu.au/principles-and-protocols
NSW Education Standards Authority. (n.d.). Learning Across the Curriculum. Retrieved from
https://syllabus.nesa.nsw.edu.au/english/english-k10/learning-across-the-curriculum/
Regional Aboriginal Education Team. (2012). 8 Ways: Aboriginal Pedagogy from Western NSW.
Dubbo, Australia: Department of Education and Communities.

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